Spill It: Is All Your Work Created Equal?

Somebody help! I have no money left for books!

I have to be honest with you guys.

I haven’t made that much money this year.

I know. I suck.

When I first realized how horrifyingly, dismally low my income was for the first half of 2012, I immediately announced to my husband that I had failed at life, and that — from now on — I was going to be a housewife. I would sweep the floors. Dust the furniture. Scrub the countertops. Frolic with the cats.

Then my husband reminded me that we were about to be juggling two mortgages, plus paying for fertility treatments, and perhaps even springing for my yoga teacher training certification. He basically told me to get a grip.

Then, this week, people started throwing money at me.

In addition to the book I was already ghostwriting, I was suddenly asked to copyedit a manuscript, draw up proposals to manage two social media campaigns for two separate clients, and take on another coaching client. Suddenly, I had well-paying work coming out my hoo-ha.


It’s a relief to be sure, but I have to say… when I think back to the preceding six months, I can’t really say that the work that’s rolling in now is any more important to me than the work I was doing before. [Read more…]

How to Let Go of Having It All

In viewing an infographic developed by JESS3 that aims to give readers a peek inside the mind of freelancers, I was completely unsurprised to learn that “lack of clear direction / path” is one of the top three things that keeps freelancers up at night.

I can certainly relate. I’ve recently been engulfed in my own period of ennui. Though I’ve been working on many different things, I’ve been feeling a bit ambivalent about it all. As I asked my husband just the other day, “What the hell am I even working toward!?

(I also suggested that I might do better as a housewife, but Michael just rolled his eyes and told me I’d snap out of it soon.)

Part of this is probably due to stress over unsuccessful IUI treatments, the continuing short sale process, and the up-in-the-air status of my book.

But could it also be that – gasp! — I’m just doing too much? [Read more…]

How To Handle a Career Setback with Finesse

I started writing about my attempts to get pregnant a little over two years ago, in May 2010. I had been asked to launch a parenting blog for YourTango, and the timing seemed fortuitous. By September 2011, however, I was writing about infertility, and my husband and I had made our first appointment at a fertility clinic about a half hour away.

After a long series of tests, we finally started a medication cycle early last month. Michael injected me every evening with a medication designed to boost follicular growth. Almost every other morning, I woke up early to drive to the fertility center, where I received bloodwork and an ultrasound. After being artificially inseminated, I started taking progesterone pills twice a day, which made me break out to an extent reminiscent of my junior high years (sigh).

This past Sunday, I woke up early once again to get my last bit of bloodwork. This one would be a pregnancy test. [Read more…]

Bedazzle It! All the Extras Your Query Letter Needs

Query letters: They’re sort of my thing.

While many of my coaching clients seem to agonize over their query letters, perfectionism and fear keeping them from ever sending the damn things out, I actually enjoy writing them.

This nerd-tastic enjoyment is mostly thanks to some pretty fantastic teachers. Back in college, I took a professional writing class with Burton Klein, an adjunct professor at TCNJ who taught his students how to write cover letters that stood out. Later on, I took several continuing education classes with Susan Shapiro. She taught me everything I know about establishing a connection with editors.

Now, I’m someone who — according to my friends — “gives good email.”

Thank god. I’m pretty hopeless when it comes to in-person interaction.

I even offer a coaching package for those seeking out help with query letters in particular: Cover Letters: Quick, Easy & Awesome.

In the past, I’ve blogged about the basics of query letters: 1. Establish a connection. 2. Lay out your idea. 3. Sell yourself. 4. Wrap it all up. But is it really so simple?

Yes… and no.

To really set yourself apart, you should be adding in some extras. [Read more…]

How I Learned to Live and Write with Intention

In November 2010, I hosted a speed networking event at the Galway Hooker in NYC, a bar just a few blocks south of where I used to work full-time for an academic book publisher.*

The event was a shot-in-the-dark idea I had for promoting my brand new career coaching business… one idea among many.

I paired up with Marian Schembari to plan and co-host the event. Together, we filled the space with publishing professionals we’d connected with over the course of our careers.

We filled that room with 25 publishing experts, and then — through a promotional push borne of the fear that no one would show up — we managed to fill the room with 50 more people eager to speed network with them.

The event was a resounding success, and I often thought of hosting more of them.

I never did. [Read more…]

How to Maintain the Ability to Interact with Other Human Beings

Have you ever seen that comic by the Oatmeal on why working at home is both awesome and horrible? I love it… especially because it perfectly captures the “degradation of social skills” (his words) that occurs when you’ve been working alone for an extended period of time.

How have I been affected?

  • I no longer feel shame when I wear yoga pants to the Stop & Shop, or to Barnes & Noble.
  • I tend to mutter to myself in public.
  • I have extended conversations with my cats.
  • I’m mystified when people actually call me on the phone, instead of texting or emailing.
  • I don’t have a single, business-appropriate outfit, and always go into a panic whenever the odd networking event or launch party pops up.
  • I tackle my husband as soon as he arrives home and try to engage him in conversation about EVERYTHING IN THE WORLD EVER, ALL AT ONCE.
  • I have panic attacks when at large social gatherings, work myself up to the brink of passing out when public speaking, and am forced to medicate myself with a potent mix of Xanax and wine.
  • Actually, that previous bullet point pretty much describes me even before I went full-time freelance!

The point is, many freelancers — especially the introverts among us — tend to hide behind our books and laptops and notebooks and cameras whenever possible.

Which is goddamn ridiculous when you’re trying to be a successful entrepreneur, as both community-building — and the ability to sell yourself — are crucial.

Which is why I joined Toastmasters last month. [Read more…]

The Freelance Writing Book That Will Take You From Small Potatoes to Professional

About a month ago, I attended the annual American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA) conference for the first time ever, having snagged a free day pass because I was a panelist.

I had a fantastic time. I popped my public speaking cherry. I took a shit-ton of notes at the other panels I attended. I drank too much wine at the end-of-day cocktail party and met some pretty darn awesome writers. I was so impressed by the strong community of professional freelance writers that I wanted moremoreMORE!

So I applied to be a member and then sat back and waited.

And then I got fidgety and impatient and started reading the copy of The ASJA Guide to Freelance Writing I’d picked up the conference. [Read more…]

How to Play the Waiting Game Just Right

Right now, I’m waiting for my attorney to call me back. I’m waiting for him to tell me that my husband and I are out of attorney review on the house we bid on, so that we can conduct our inspection and then wait some more (it’s a short sale, so our fate lies in the hands of the bank).

I’m also waiting for a ghostwriting client to come back with feedback on the proposed TOC I sent along to her last week. Once the TOC is approved, I can invoice for my first chunk of work and move forward on the project… a project that happens to have a very tight timeline.

And then there’s that other ghostwriting client who’s not yet officially a client. I’m waiting for her to make some final decisions on the last, little details of our contract together, so that we can get it signed.

I’m also waiting to hear more news from my literary agent. There are at least six editors who are just starting to dig into my book proposal, and the suspense is killing me. Will we need to send out a second wave of proposals? Revise? Will someone actually want the damn thing as is?

More things I’m waiting on: That IUI Medication Class my husband and I have to attend before we can move forward with fertility treatments. I’m also waiting for my web developer husband to start developing my new web project. I’m waiting for this. I’m waiting for that. All this waiting is driving me crazy! [Read more…]

How To Achieve Full-Time Success with Part-Time Hours

Forget grad school. As most of you know, I’m a huge proponent of learning by doing. Of course, before I do anything, I also typically read a shit-ton of books. (All of the education at a fraction of the cost!)

Back in 2007, it was Michelle Goodman’s The Anti 9-to-5 Guide that got me up and running as a full-time freelancer. Later on, I read My So-Called Freelance Life (also by Goodman) and wished I’d had it from the very beginning.

Last week, I speed-read Kelly James-Enger’s Writer for Hire: 101 Secrets to Freelance Success and realized it was the book I should have had when the economy — and my business — first hit the skids. Luckily, no matter how long you’ve been freelancing, there’s always something to learn.

I’ve been reading Kelly’s blog — Dollars and Deadlines — for awhile now, and also recommend her book on ghostwriting and coauthoring — Goodbye Byline, Hello Big Bucks — to just about every writer I come into contact with. So I was thrilled when I heard she had written a new book. In fact, I devoured the entire thing in two days, dog-earing pages on market research, story ideas, reprints, and contract templates.

What struck me the most, however, was that Kelly had created a level of success that allowed her to bring in a full-time income while working part-time hours.

Basically, my idea of perfection.

After the jump, Kelly is generous enough to share how you can do the same. [Read more…]

Spill It: Are You a Terrible Self-Starter?

Last week, I headed over to my local library to sit in on a meeting of the Toastmasters Club. When we went around the room to introduce ourselves, I admitted that I was on a panel at a major conference that coming weekend, that public speaking terrified me, and that I was hoping to pick up some pointers.

So when it came time for impromptu, two-minute presentations, the master of ceremonies (the Toast Master?) asked me to take the first shot and talk about the presentation I was preparing for.


I got up there and babbled incoherently for just under two minutes about ASJA, sex writing, the book I was working on, and promotional plans. It wasn’t terrible. But it was definitely unfocused, and I was obviously nervous.

(A few presentations later, a guy with fantastic biceps opened up his presentation by saying that my presentation was his favorite. But I’m pretty sure it’s because no one expects to come to the public library, attend a Toastmasters Club meeting, and hear somebody talk about sex.)

ANYway. At the end of the meeting, I received some more constructive feedback from the person tasked with analyzing each mini-speech, and one thing he said stuck out to me. “People tend to use filler words (stuff like uh and um) in the same way they clear their throat,” he said. “You feel unprepared, so you fill in those words while you gather your thoughts.”

It struck me then that my tendency toward extreme procrastination is much the same thing. [Read more…]